Is Israel Ironic? Would anti-semitism still be a major issue without it?

The basis for debate is this:

Israel was founded, not at all implausibly, because many Jews felt the lessons of things like pogroms, purges, and, obviously, eventually, the Holocaust showed that no country could be trusted to ensure the safety and security of their people (there of course is also the religious significance of the nation, but of course that would have been important at any time in history, not just in the last century). The hope was that it would provide safe haven for Jews all over the world: Jews would finally control their own security, ensure the safety of their own people.

The problem is that, in hindsight, it seems like the traditional sources of anti-semitism were so exhausted and shamed after the Holocaust that the millenia-long historical progression of it seemed at an end. Jews very quickly became accepted in societies like America, and with the success of the civil rights movement in general and the new modernism, western socities basically repudiated most types of ethnic and religious hatreds in both their legal systems and popular cultures.

But the existence of Israel, of course, created an all new source for anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Zionist resentment. It dumped large numbers of Jews instantly into a situation where millions of Muslims would be offended and radicalized by their prescence. No matter whose fault it was, it created one of the biggest cultural clashes in centuries, inflaming the Middle East. Jews today are singled out by Middle Eastern terrorists all around the world because of this situation, while Jews living in Israel live under constant threat of suicide bombers and an entire region that wants them dead and or gone. Even in places that people point to as Western countries that still have anti-semitism (like France), the majority of this seems driven by problems with Zionism and Palestine.

The question is: would the Jewish people in general be a lot safer and more secure if Israel had never come into being? Was the creation of Israel at that particular time in history, in retrospect, worth it, from the perspective of the advancement and safety of the Jewish people? Obviously, now that it has, we can’t redo history, and I don’t want to debate where Israel should go from here or even whether it’s was a legitimately created nation-state or whatever. Israel is here now, it has to figure out how to survive and function where it is, and nobody on these boards can really claim to know what the best way out of the conflict is.

So what I’m interested in is just the strategic discussion, not the moral rightness or wrongness of Israel’s existence or anything that’s happened since: just *in light of[/] how it all turned out, was it a good idea? In other words, what I’m interested in considering is irony: was the creation of Israel ultaimtely counter-productive to the safety ans security and general social acceptance of Jews all over the world?

To me, it seems so, but I don’t claim to be well informed on all the relevant issues, and it may be that there are historical realities that I’m unaware of, or other sources of anti-semitism that would have fired up just as big even if the Palestinian issue had never come to be. But what if? What if no Israel had been created (at least not at that time) but Jews had both the memory of the Holocaust as well as the general success of modern civil rights in the western world on their side by now? What if America and other western democracies were their major havens (more dispersed yes, but also less likely to cause disruption and resentment due to major demographic shifts) instead of Israel? Would Jews be as singled out for hatred as they are today by Muslims and those that think Zionism is evil and so on? Or would the few lone Holocaust denier nuts be the only real anti-Jew focused movement? Somewhere in between? I’m just having a hard time seeing what else would have fanned the flames to make up for the effect that Israel had on both people in the Middle East and around the world.

They would be much better off if they had gone with the “Jewish state in Germany” option.

At the time Israel was created, anti-semitism (mainly in Europe) was a major issue, and a lot of people were afraid. Specifically, Eastern European Jews were still in danger (a massive number of the Israeli immigrants eventually came from the East).

No, the question was: no particular state anywhere, as an option.

Sure, but that’s neither here nor there. By the time WWII had ended, it’s not clear that there were about to be any more genocides. The Soviet bloc obviously wasn’t a good place for ANYONE to be, but it’s also not clear that Jews would have continued to be singled out the way they were prior to WWII. Obviously, anti-semitism wasn’t erased when WW2 ended: the real question is getting from then to today without Israel: would anti-semitism still even be all that well known? Would it be as much a fringe issue as anti-Irish is? Or more prevalent but still not popularly accepted anywhere like anti-African American is?

If most of them had headed to Western Europe and America instead of Israel, would we be where we are now? Would Jews even be a well known minority with such overwhelming hatred directed at them?

My answer: No.

As you said, Jews not in charge of their own state were subjected to progroms, blood libels, expulsions, and ultimately, the Holocuast. In most of the societies in which these things occurred, the Jewish society had flourished peacefully for centuries prior to the events that rendered them inhospitable to Jews. But being subject to the non-Jewish authority meant that the mood could…and always did…change for the worse, and there was no place of refuge to which the victims could reliably turn.

Yes, Israel has external enemies. And yes, at the moment, America and Western Europe would be, and are, fine places for masses of Jews to live. But the sufferance of non-Jewish society is, unfortunately, not guaranteed to last forever. The downturn might not happen in our lifetimes, or in our childrens’ lifetimes, or even our great-great grandchildrens’s lifetimes. But bitter history says that we must be prepared for the possiblity that it can happen. And when it does, Israel will provide a safe haven for those who need to flee (assuming that Israel still exists as a Jewish state by that time). And Israel is the one place where Jews are guaranteed freedom from official state persecution.

External enemies are the lesser threat, from a historical perspective.

Wasn’t Stalin contemplating some major pogrom right up to his dead, a long time after Israel was created. Also anti-Semitism has seemed all but gone before, actually it’s somewhat ironic that it was Germany that should be the ones to enact the ultimate horror. As Germany was long thought the beacon of enlightened and humane society and most Jews in Germany were both thoroughly integrated and secular to the point where they didn’t feel Jewish at all. One writer I read said something like if you took a man from the end of the 19 century and told him of the holocaust his first reaction would be something like “oh! Those horrible French!” never thinking the German should sink so low. I don’t grudge the Jews their extra insurance even should it be something of a short term public disaster, who knows which country will next embrace barbarity?

Yes, but are you suggesting that there is simply never any end to this? It seems to me that the underlying factors driving past anti-semitism (Christian hostility, blood libel) have mostly dried up and been mooted by modern states in ways that are fundamentally different from the sort of authoritarian societies that sometimes tolerated Jews and sometimes persecuted them, on and off. Historically, a lot of irrational hatreds HAVE pretty much vanished and don’t seem likely to return. They often come and go with particular political and cultural situations. The anti-Semitism we see today seems driven by things that are quite different than what came before.

I’m interested in this topic mostly because of what it reflects about other minority groups: do they seek integration in multicultural societies (with the danger of losing their identity, which I guess is another important consideration if we define “security” broadly), or do they seek separation? Does the latter approach really work, or are the results questionable?

True, but then the same could be said of the security of Israel. No one can predict forever. It seems pretty clear that Israel as a “Jewish” democracy seems very much in threat within only a generation as non-Jews seem set to make up a majority in the not too distant future.

Really? What if they are Jews who disagree with Israel’s policies? It seems to me that if youare going to argue that the normal protective processes of modern states can break down at some point in some hypothetical future, Israel could as a state could break down. Or, as above, the project of a uniquely Jewish state might not be sustainable in the framework of a democracy which must by nature allow other non-Jews to vote and participate.

But if we narrow the question: if it was “would Jewish people face less security threats today and less anti-semitism if not for Israel” (as opposed to some future hypothetical), what would you say? What if the U.S. was the proxy Israel? Would we have a better chance at mooting anti-Semitism here than if the Palestinian conflict existed?

There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who disagree with Israel’s policies, but fortunately Israrel is a democracy and lets the dissenters vote, instead of just having them shot.

Non-Jews do vote and participate in Israeli government. And while it’s true that any state could rbeak down, Israel is hysterically unlikely to start targeting its citizens because they are Jewish. Even my own nation of Canada, an otherwise peacable place, flirted with official anti-semitism (“None is too many!”).

The Palestinian conflict would still exist in some form, because I daresay the only things Arabs hate more than Jews is other Arabs. Various ethnically-drawn conflicts would still rage in the area, and I expect incidents like the gassing of Kurds would happen if Israel existed or not.

In any case, let’s assume the entire Jewish population of Israel was airlifted to Kansas. Would their departure bring peace to the Middle East? How long before the abandoned infrastructure collapses under inept Arab rule (not to say Arabs are inherently inept, but looking at how other nations in the area are run, it’s clear the smartest people aren’t put in charge of public works) and the situation is just as messy as before?

Israel is a convenient focus point for anti-semitism; it isn’t the cause of its continued existence.

So is America. I think you missed the point. The suggestion made was that we can’t trust states to protect Jews forever, EVEN modern democracies. My point was that Israel is no more or less likely than other democracies to become repressive towards its own citizens in some distant hypothetical situation in which anything can happen (in my estimation: not a very high probability in any case, Israel included), so I’m not sure the case for it is any stronger just because the current government happens to be majority Zionist and Jewish for the time being.

Again, I think you are confusing my meaning. The point was not that they don’t, but that given that they do, and given that the population of non-Jews is increasing rapidly, it’s very possible that Israel will eventually lose its status as majority Jewish, and hence the special property of a Jewish state looking out for the security of the Jewish people.

First of all: are you so sure that’s the case if Palestinians are the majority in just a few generations? Many conservative Jews fear exactly this, so it’s not like it’s some crazy scenario: it’s all just demographics.

And like any state that breaks down (again, if its unlikely for Israel, I’d say it’s just as unlikely for other modern western democratic states) it could certainly target those who disagree with the state.

Sure, and I don’t mean to suggest that anti-semitism would have just vanished outright. But by and large, post the civil rights era and moving into the modern age, not much supports or sustains that sort of anti-semitism in the West. Are there factors purely in the West that you think WOULD have sustained that sort of hatred towards Jews in particular?

I’m not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand. The topic isn’t hate of ethnic minorities in general, but the particular minority in question. I can’t see how the Palestinian conflict would exist in a way that mattered all that much to the security and safety of Jews if Israel had not been created. The Middle East could have gone to hell, but that’s not the topic at hand.

You seem to be jumping from one conclusion to the other. First of all, as the OP notes, no one should be or is talking about doing anything now: the situation is already there, there’s no simple way out of it. It’s a done deal. No airlift.

Second of all, not to be cold, but I’m not all concerned with how Arab society would have turned out without Israel. I don’t have particularly high hopes. Without Israel as a scapegoat some of the regimes might have been more unstable, but I have no idea. But the Jewish people wouldn’t have been there to BE the scapegoats, and the question is whether, from the perspective of anti-semitism, we’d be better off.

This is also something I’m interested in: do you think that it’s impossible or unlikely that certain underlying aspects of civilization could change so that Jews would no longer be in the situation where they feel they have to look out for themselves?

Take the example of women: it’s pretty clear that with the success of the women’s rights movement and the inevitable spread of gender equality around the world, that something pretty phenomenally different has happened in human civilization from almost any prior society. It’s hard to see a situation other than the total collapse of western civilization which would take us back to the days where women were legally property or subject to the domain of their husbands. So major shifts can indeed happen.

To a lesser extent, many racial, ethnic, and religious minorities have gone from hated groups to barely ever mentioned in a prejorative sense (like the Irish in America, or Mormons in Ameirca, etc.). Do people think that this could never happen to Jews, and that no historical development could ever affect the prevalence and likihood of resurgence of anti-Semitism?



You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But the societies that have persecuted Jews were diverse and no single factor is easily isolated. Democracy vs. authoritarian? Nazi Germany started out as a democracy (though it did eventually become authoritarian). Christian vs. non-Christian? The Soviet Union was officially atheist.

The fact is that much as we might hope, theoretically, for better, history has not been kind to the optimists. Israel’s non-existence might have negated the problems in the Middle East (or would it? Every single Arab government is authoritarian, and without Israel to have been sent to in the 1950’s, there would be millions of Jews living under those governments. Impossible to say for sure), but anti-semitism existed in many nations for many centuries, and it’s extremely naive to think that we’re so enlightened that modern society has the problem completely licked.

Well you can always charge this on the basis of future fears, but the question is: are there any real factors in the west that would sustain anti-semitism in the way that it was sustained under Christendom post the civil rights era? Are you unwilling to consider the possibility that some of the major engines have sputtered out and some basic rules may have changed? I still don’t see it: if Jews had left troubled states (like Russia and the Middle East) for western democracies in the same way they did for Israel, I don’t see where the major sources that sustain and continue anti-Semitism would have come from. You can always raise the possibility that it might have come back (hey, the Italians might try to eradicate the Irish), but what are the actual sources that can be pointed to that would be the trouble?

Again, as an example to other minorities, do you think that Jews are a special case that’s not instructive (some obvious factors are the religious significance of Israel as a homeland)? Or should all minority religions/ethnicities ultimately try to get their own states to ensure their own security? Does this approach really work any better than the alternative, post the civil rights era? Especially in light of the future troubles for Israel as remaining Jewish state for very much longer anyway?

Sure, but neither of these examples really speak to the question. Neither had gone through a civil rights era, and the “democracy” in Germany wasn’t exactly robust or modern. The Soviet Union, likewise, wasn’t a democracy, and howevermuch its leaders claimed it officially, the people and their bigotries were very much rooted in religious beliefs.

At the very least, you could say that if the current western states break down and become authoritarian, there isn’t any real reason I see to think that the Jews are any more or in special danger today in most of those countries than any other minority from oppression and terror from their leaders. Is there ANY point at which Jews would feel at least as secure as other minorities who live around the world? Any change in particular underlying factors?